Jack Dorsey, former CEO of Twitter. In a recent interview he revealed that the key secret to his success was timeboxing. According to Harvard Business, is the number one most effective productivity hack.
Timeboxing is a form of to-do listing. But how is it different from more traditional forms of to-do lists? Well, traditional to-do lists have many setbacks. They overwhelm us with too many choices, we find ourselves naturally drawn to simpler tasks which are more easily accomplished and rarely drawn to important-but-not-urgent tasks, like setting aside time for learning. Traditional to-do lists on their own also tend to lack the essential context of what time you have available, making them less committing.
Timeboxing solves all of these issues. In a study conducted by Harvard Business. of 100 productivity hacks, timeboxing was ranked as the most useful. It works like this;
The brain-dumping part is where you let out all of your morning thoughts – maybe this requires going over emails or whatsapps to recall – and jot down every little to-do on your mind; not all need to be tackled that same day.
Prioritising is where you note the two to five main tasks of the day; finish that blog piece, send that pattern off to the factory etc – the things that really need to be done within the next 24 hours.
Timeboxing is where you then break down both the major and minor tasks for the day into time frames. Try to complete the major necessary tasks first and then find time for the minor tasks later – these can also include household tasks, self-care and workout time and time spent with family and friends to unwind as these too all contribute to productivity.
Timeboxing into a calendar enables the relative positioning of work. If you know that a promotional video has to go live on a Tuesday and that the production team needs 72 hours to work on your copy edits, then you know when to place the timebox. In fact, you know where to place the timebox: it’s visual, intuitive, obvious. Working hard and trying your best is sometimes not actually what’s required; the alternative — getting the right thing done at the right time — is a better outcome for all.
Timeboxing is also beneficial if you work with a right hand man like a manager, agent or co-founder. If all of your critical work (and maybe just all of your work, period) is in your calendar, colleagues can see it. So not only are you more likely to plan your work to accommodate others’ schedules (the paragraph above), others are able to check that your work schedule works for them. Shared calendars (with attendant privacy options) are the norm in the corporate world now, with Microsoft and Google leading the way.
Timeboxing also helps to make you feel more in control. This is especially important because control (aka volition, autonomy, etc.) may be the biggest driver of happiness at work. Constant interruptions make us less happy and less productive. Timeboxing is the proper antidote to this. You decide what to do and when to do it, block out all distractions for that timeboxed period, and get it done. Repeat. Consistent control and demonstrable accomplishment is hugely satisfying, even addictive. This is not just about productivity (largely external), this is about intent (internal, visceral) and how we feel.
This productive practice improves how we feel (control), how much we achieve as individuals (personal productivity), and how much we achieve in the teams we work in (enhanced collaboration). We’re buzzing to try it!